So, the teachers in Chicago are on strike. They don’t like accountability; they need more money; because of all of the problems the students face at home, the teachers think the students are too difficult to teach. I think this is a prime opportunity for charter and private schools to pick up the slack. As the mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, said, “You never let a serious crisis go to waste.”
The teachers are trying to prove how indispensable they are. What they are proving instead, is how dispensable they are. Maybe this school district, the third largest in the country, ought to be the experiment for the rest of the country. Since the parents have to drop their children off somewhere, they might as well try enrolling them in the local charter and private schools in the district. If enough students are removed from the public school domain, the teachers will be better able to serve those who remain. And the teachers will get an effective pay raise, because they won’t have to teach as many students.
Especially with the increase in online classes, the teachers for new students in the charter and private schools don’t even have to be on campus: students can take classes from teachers based anywhere in the world. Chicago already has a virtual charter school—students only need access to computers and a place to study in order to be up and running.
Not every student has access to a computer; nor does every student have a safe place to learn. 350,000 students is a lot to absorb in a short period of time. Each of these arguments has merit. But a solution doesn’t have to be a total solution to have some effect. If even a small percentage of those students affected by the strike move out of the system, that will be a sufficient amount to test the validity of alternatives to traditional public schooling.
The unions may not have gone on strike in 25 years, but a time of recession, when 23 million people are out of work, is not necessarily a time to complain about the size of your raise. Even if it is, with so many people out of work, at least one of them will have some idea of how to take this lemon of a situation and make lemonade. In the meantime, it is, as usual, the children who end up suffering for the sins of others.
The students, the very people the teachers are supposed to be helping, are now being ill-served by their supposed protectors. Whenever teachers’ salaries are discussed, whenever building new schools is the subject at hand, the cry is “For the children! It’s all for the children!” The average amount paid per pupil per year across this country is more than $10,000—that’s just slightly less than the poverty guideline for a single person in this country. That is, if each student were given $10,000 per year, he would almost be able to obtain his own food, clothing and shelter without government assistance, let alone a mere education. I’d say that the taxpayers are holding up their end of the bargain. If that amount is not trickling down to the teachers, they ought not take their grievance out on the very people who are struggling to get by. And those people are the ones who will be most affected by this strike. People who have money find it easier to obtain childcare in emergencies like this one. The people who will have to take days off work, leave their children home alone, or scrounge up alternate care, are the ones who can least afford it. And they are not the ones who will be paying any extra taxes.
So once again, accountability and responsibility are taking separate roads. The people who rely most on the school system to be up and running are the same ones who can least afford to find other means to educate their children, and are the ones whose children are most in need of being educated. But they are not the ones who will be paying any increase in teachers’ pay.
That is why it would be interesting to see what would happen if all those people who could afford to take their children out of public school, would do so. Ease the burden on those who don’t have any alternative,who must rely on the public education system, shackled as it is by government regulation, bureaucracy, enmity between city officials and the unions, all of the years of band-aid fixes stuck one on top of the other. Ease the burden on the teachers, so that they have more time to spend with those who need it the most. If you have the option of removing your child from the traditional public education system, of placing your child in a charter school, a private school, a virtual school, or even of homeschooling your child yourself, don’t you have the public duty of doing so, for the sake of those who do not have those options?
That doesn’t mean that your taxes will be any less. In fact, they will probably go up, because—well, I can’t think of a good reason right now, but I’m sure that someone will come up with one. So think of it as your civic responsibility: there are so many options out there, you have the duty to come up with a way to remove your child from the public school system if you can, so that others less fortunate can have better access to the facilities that they would otherwise be lacking. Before there was public education, many children were educated privately—public education was instituted as a way to keep the poor, the down-trodden, out of the mines, the sweathouses, the mills, the fields, everywhere that young ones were being exploited. Then those who could afford to educate their children privately decided to take advantage of government-funded schools. Isn’t it time to give those schools back to those who need them, and find accommodations for those children who are better off elsewhere?